“When I was young my ambition was to be one of the people who made a difference in this world. My hope is to leave the world a little better for having been there” – Jim Henson
I think most people are born with a certain amount of hope. I believe I was born with about a clay jug full of hope and sipped a lot of it in my 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. I took the occasional swig of hope from the wine skin as I marched in anti-Vietnam protests, I took deeper draughts of it as I fought for equal rights and a level playing field for marginalized individuals. As a person with a disability I drank flagons of it throughout my life relying on it to create a more fair and just society.
Lately though I have been hearing a lot from my network of access advocated and those involved in disability activism. Hope seems to be waning and that isn’t a good sign. Effective advocacy is based on the presence of “hope”. We all live with the hope that those making the decisions that affect our day to day life will do it based on integrity and fairness. Unfortunately this Kavanaugh debacle south of the border has taken the winds of hope out of a lot of activists sails.
Kavanaugh’s track record on Obama Care is not great and he is now in the position of striking down the section that protects every American with a preexisting condition. In other words if you have a medical condition related to your diabetes, you have a preexisting condition. If you are a polio survivor now experiencing post polio syndrome, you have a preexisting condition. If you have secondary issues to a cardiac issue you have a preexisting conditions. Getting the gist here, changing this one stipulation could affect millions of Americans living with a disability. Hope can be hard to hold on to when it appears the whole system is rigged against you.
Hope is my fuel and has made me the independent survivor I am today. Lately my own tank has run pretty low due to sudden combinations of negative situations. I think this is more common as we age. However I may sputter every now and then as the tank gets low but I have am lucky enough (and open minded) to get injections of hope from other peoples actions.
I must admit over the past ten years (or so) that jug has emptied a lot as I have watched so much erosion of compassion and understanding for those most marginalized. I was beginning to see about a thimble full of hope left. Following Senator Flakes move on the Kavanaugh debacle I was back up to a shot glass size of hope (maybe a short highball glass). But that syphoned off quickly when it became clear that my HOPE that Flakes actions had been based on integrity turned out to be just more political theatrics. It’s that sense of political theatrics that make it hard to keep hope alive these days.
It is difficult for me to encourage younger activists to hold on to hope when I find myself drifting from it. Much of this generation of advocates have anywhere from five to twenty years experience as an activist. Many of them believe much of what they are fighting for is new. The little attached cartoon, courtesy of the BC Disability Caucus, is an indicator of how repetitive many of these causes are. I have listened to the “untapped labour force” argument for 40+ years and still we fight for the right to work.
We fight for something as simple as access to a workplace with no understanding of the basics of access. We hold onto our hope that something like equal access will improve our shot at employment and allow us to live, at least, a semi-independent life while being a contributing member of our community. But when we see top policy makers being appointed or elected to positions that allow them the power to block our independence by creating policies that are bureaucratic barriers, it is hard to hold onto that hope.
I have come close to running my tank of hope dry but then I look at life devoid of hope and all I see is despair. Nobody should live a life fuelled by despair. That only leads to death and where’s the dignity in that. I have not spend fifty years holding onto the hope of a life of independence just to give into despair now as I enter retirement. I remind myself of the legacy Terry Fox left us with his Marathon of Hope or Rick Hansen Man in Motion tour which helps to refill my tanks.
My next challenge for hope will be the Calgary plebiscite next month to make a move on hosting the 2026 Olympics. As someone who was here for the 1988 Olympic’s I witnessed the hope it left in this City. I can only HOPE that those same dreams will rise again as a counter to all of the negativity that has been happening around us. We need something to raise everybody’s hopes again and I believe the 2026 Olympics could do that for Calgary.
I hope you have found these words insightful. I also hope you can find it in your heart to help keep my hope alive for this site. There are small costs so any little donation is appreciated…
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